So, I’m kind of a negative person. (Hey, you SHUT UP!) This tends to mean that when I come up with a sci-fi plot, it’s probably best described as dystopian.
I feel like the sci-fi genre is built on dystopia: see this thing you are about to do? Here are some consequences you didn’t think about, and now we’re DOOMED!
Well, enter Solarpunk, a new sub-genre I came upon in my internet meanderings. The basic point is something like this: Try to think of a future that inspires hope in people, and not despair. And what’s more “punk” then living off a grid by getting your energy from the sun? Stick it to the man! You can’t tax sunlight!
That seems pretty cool, but it does have a purpose: sci-fi showed us what starships and space stations could be, and we get pretty close to that at NASA some days, right? Well, try to inspire that wonder in something eco-friendly. Frankly, my generation has grown up with this climate-change stuff hanging over us: we’re all doomed, no hope, no one will make anything better, blah, blah, blah. Well, time for some HOPE. What do we think is achievable? What forces do we have to overcome to see a Solarpunk world?
Says Adam Flynn:
Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.
Sarena Ulibarri has a similar observation:
One way to motivate change is to make it uncomfortable for people to be where they are — that’s the strategy of dystopia: if you continue on this path, look where we’ll end up. Another way is to make it comfortable for people to be where you want them to be — that’s the strategy of solarpunk: look at this beautiful world we could build. Can science fiction directly influence science or policy? No, nor should it. But it can influence what people see as possible, and what images people default to when they think of the future.
Honestly, I think of Miyazaki and the fictional worlds he built with his animation. His characters always regret picking a fight with nature, and they are all so deliciously human about their faults. Just watch Princess Mononoke.
People under 30 are presented with radical individualism or trans-humanism as solutions to the mess of life (these themes are prevalent in sci-fi), but we find ourselves longing for something more sustainable and less dreary.
That’s kind of cool. And I think it’s kind of telling that I can’t think of anything right away to add to a Solarpunk genre, which means it’s harder to write about hope than despair.
Aren’t humans funny?